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Thousands of Egyptians march on Maspero to mark first anniversary of military crackdown

Thousands of demonstrators march in Downtown Cairo to mark the first anniversary of the Maspero protest crackdown, where at least 27 Coptic protesters were killed last year

Ahram Online, Tuesday 9 Oct 2012
Protesters march on Maspero from Dawaran Shubra Square (Photo: Mai Shaheen)
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Several thousand protesters have marched from the district of Shubra near Downtown Cairo Tuesday afternoon to the state radio and television building to commemorate the first anniversary of the Maspero clashes, where 27 protesters, mostly Coptic Christians, were killed.

The deadly incident occurred when a peaceful march against the destruction of a church in Aswan and the authorities' subsequent inaction was confronted by the military near the building in Maspero, central Cairo, on 9 October 2011.

Some protesters carried the banners of Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, head of the military council which was in charge of the country at the time, and his deputy Sami Anan with leashes around their necks, signifying punishment by execution.

Others held aloft a large flag bearing the face of Mina Danial, the young Egyptian activist who was killed during the crackdown and has become a revolutionary icon since. Other flags featured the faces of some of the slain protesters.

Prominent chants by the protesters included "the people want the execution of the Field Marshall". Tantawi is no longer in charge of the military council, having been ordered to retire by Egypt president Mohamed Morsi in August.

Protesters have also chanted against Muslim Brotherhood supreme guide Mohamed Badie, whom they accuse of "betraying the revolution". Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected president, hails from the group which was oppressed for decades by military strongmen Gamal Abdel-Nasser, Anwar El-Sadat and Hosni Mubarak.

There was minimal security presence in front of the state radio and television building, which is normally guarded by military tanks and forces. Maspero has been the favourite destination for Coptic Christian protests since last year's popular uprising.

Before the march briefly stopped for sunset prayers, symbolic funeral has proceeded, with a group of girls in Pharaonic garb carrying enlarged photos of each of the victims, along with a Pharanoic replica ship that has the names of the victims printed on its sails.

"Where is the punishment? Where is justice? Whoever did this must be tried," said Peter Barakat, a high school student and a member of Coptic activist group Maspero Youth Union.

A choir sang Coptic hymns after the march arrived at Maspero. The names of all victims were pronounced over loudspeakers.

Video footage filmed at the Maspero protest last year showed military forces running over several protesters with armoured vehicles.

Tuesday's march is designed to be a carbon copy of last year's, resembling the same route from Dawaran Shurba square to the State TV headquarters in Maspero.

A group of hardcore football fans, widely known as the Ultras, have also participated  in the march.

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